During my 14th year, strangers in my relatively small hometown started greeting me this way, mysteriously often. The first few times, I felt like I must be imagining it: Did I just get called Monica? Again? After about the 8th time it happened, the mistaken identity began to bother me.
"Who's Monica?" I asked my friend Leah.
"She's that other redheaded girl," Leah said. "She goes to Marco." Marco Forster Junior High School was the public Junior High School in town. I went to the Catholic school. Leah played fullback on the AYSO soccer team where I played goalie. We'd been Brownies and Girl Scouts together in Elementary. We were also in National Charity League together during high school. Incidentally, we also went to the same college, although we didn’t room together. Leah liked nothing better than to hang out and chat with me in the backfield while our forwards were running the ball furiously toward the goal. (I owe much of my former soccer goalie prowess to Leah's sieve-like defense of the goal box.) Leah went to public school; therefore, she knew this Monica. "She's taller than you are, but you look a lot alike," she said.
Instead of playing soccer, Monica danced ballet, which explains why our paths took so long to cross. We finally met when our different National Charity League subchapters convened at a common house. The girls in Monica's subchapter were debutantes. This meeting-nay-party was all about how to give ourselves manicures -- a very useful skill, like typing, for example; how to arrange flowers; how to sit down in a chair properly and what to do with your legs while sitting. My own subchapter did community service together: we candy striped; we patterned a local quadriplegic girl who had been paralyzed since birth; we delivered meals on wheels, read for Head Start students, walked together, along with our mothers, in the Swallows Day Parade. A few times, we met with California stateswomen, like Marian Bergeson. I have to say that as noble as these things were, I remember more from that one meeting where I learned manicure skills (always file in one direction), flower arranging skills (cut the stems under running water), and sitting etiquette (back up to the chair until the backs of your legs brush the seat; sit straight down; fold your ankes around one another and let your legs lean together to one side. Never! Cross! Your! Legs!).
It might have been through our participation in this group that my parents found out about Young Republican Camp, where they sent me when I was 16. But that is a totally awesome memory that I'm reserving for a future writing.
The moment I saw her, I knew I'd met my match.
"You must be Monica," I said.
"You're Christa!" she said.
"We don't look alike at all," I said.
"No," she said.
We stood staring at one another, trying to hide our greedy need to find our difference in one another. Then, recognizing our awkward silence, we tried to start talking again.
"I guess our hair color is kind of similar," I said.
"And it's cut sort of similar," she said. Our haircut resembled the cut that Tracy Austin, the 80's teen tennis star, sported in the 70s: longish, with bangs and slight feathering around the face.
"Yeah," I said.
Monica and I didn't say anything to each other for the rest of the party, and I never saw her again.